The Human Rights Campaign, the largest LGBTQ civil rights group in the nation, has withdrawn its endorsement of Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL) following Kirk’s controversial attacks on his opponent’s heritage. During their debate held Thursday night, Representative Tammy Duckworth (D) spoke about her family history of serving in the military which dates back to the Revolutionary War. Kirk then responded, “I’d forgotten that your parents came all the way from Thailand to serve George Washington.” The response has been criticized as racially charged. Duckworth traces her lineage to the Revolutionary War through her American-born father, who served in World War II.
Kirk later tweeted an apology, “Sincere apologies to an American hero, Tammy Duckworth, and gratitude for her family’s service. #ilsen.”
Kirk is a proponent of marriage equality, one of a few Republican Senators. He has a 100% rating from the Human Rights Committee and the group explained that the fact he was a Republican tied into their calculus as bipartisan support would be critical for any of their favored legislation.
Chad Griffin, the president of the HRC, said in a statement:
We are a bipartisan organization and our staff and board make endorsement decisions based on a proven record of LGBTQ equality and a candidate’s ability to drive legislative change. We will not continue to make progress and pass the Equality Act without Republican support. It’s vitally important that we continue to build bipartisan coalitions so that we may continue to move equality forward. We endorsed the sitting Senator, Mark Kirk, because he has been a strong supporter of our cause time and again, scoring a 100 percent on HRC’s most recent Congressional Scorecard. But events this week have gone beyond the pale for our standards of leadership.
The Human Rights Campaign has now endorsed Duckworth and contributed the maximum allowed donation to her campaign. Duckworth is the strong favorite to win the race.